Mitchell: Riddle Education Funding Not Yet Fixed

August 18, 2014 Admin Education

OXFORD– The late state Sen. Grey Ferris, an author the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, had a pat response whenever he heard somebody say that generous financing of Mississippis public schools wouldnt fix whats broken.

How do we understandwe understand? Ferris would state. Weve never ever attempted.

It was a paradox that both Kirk Fordice and Grey Ferris called Vicksburg house.

Fordice, who died in 2004, was a Reagan conservative, a Memphis-born Republican service provider who had never run for anything before he ran for governor in 1991. He went on to serve 2 terms preaching smaller sized, tight-fisted government.

Ferris, who passed away in 2008, was old Mississippi. Democrat. A prep school grad whose college and law degrees from Tulane were shelved since he liked life as gentleman farmer. He, too, had actually never run for anything before being chosen president of his house countys initially combined school board. Later, the very same voters who voted for Fordice elected Ferris to 2 terms in the Senate, the second which he served as chairman of the Education Committee. He was increasing in prominence and ran for lieutenant guv in 1999, however then lost and bailed out of public sight.

Fordice was no profession political leader. Ferris was no career politician. Thats about all they had in typical. Both commonly said they really wantedwished to dive into civil service, get individuals to accept their viewpoints and priorities and then get out and proceed with their lives.

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, was another crucial progenitor, was, at its core, a defense system. The United States of America was taking legal action against states left and precisely the belief that funding for public schools was not correctly allocated. Passing the act in 1997– almost 20 years ago– kept the federal attorneys sitting on their briefs. If absolutely nothing else, it saved the state millions in legal costs.

MAEP sets forth a formula to figure out how much each district requires to provide basic K-12 services. The formula is not secret. Its on the Internet. It is very complicated. The trouble is that lawmakers, pleading poverty and other concerns, have only assigned sufficient cash to fully fund the formula 2 years out of the previous 17– and did not totally fund it for the school year now beginning.

Prior to painting all lawmakers with the Ebenezer Scrooge brush, it must be rememberedkept in mind that while state earnings was pretty buoyant in the 1990s, there was a decrease in the economy beginning in 2001, an occasion called Katrina in 2005 and a near collapse of nationwide markets in 2008. State earnings, in real dollars, fell, and there was no meansno chance legislators can pay the states other fundamental costs and increase genuine dollars for public schools.

MAEP is back in the information now for two factors.

One is a grassroots effort, in fact began a number of months ago, to pass a constitutional change requiring lawmakers to satisfy the formulas demands.

The other is a group of circuit-riding attorneys who are satisfyingmeeting school boards and K-12 leaders encouraging them to take legal action against the state demanding that the Legislature obey the law it wrote and enacted.

It is intriguing that one of the attorneys riding the circuit is former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who was lieutenant governor when MAEP passed and was banned by Fordice. It was Musgrove who led the Senate override. So, far, however, reports are that not lots of school boards are eager to take legal action against the state for a share of the shortfall, estimated at $1.5 billion over the past 4 years.

The Associated Press reports that some districts do not such as the fact that the lawyers would take the first $2.5 countless any $10 million in back payments from the state (and other fees afterward). However the primary belief appears to be that school districts aren’t keen on to biting the hand that feeds them.

Likewise opposing the suits is the group pushingpromoting the constitutional amendment. The change strategy is a worthy idea, however it should be mentioned that Mississippi legislators also neglect the Mississippi Constitution virtually as frequently as they ignore their own statutes. Even if a change goes on the books, it ensures absolutely nothing.

Anyway, time marches on. The riddle of the best ways to fund and just how much to money K-12 schools is a contentious issue every year. There will be more gamers with various angles in the next cycle. A strategy that makes everyone pleased remains elusive.

Charlie Mitchell is assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. Contact him at


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